The Big “East”?

The Big East announced today that Memphis will be joining the conference as a member in all sports.  This follows on the heels of additions such as San Diego State, Houston, SMU and Boise State.  The league is a far cry from its roots as a small, basketball-oriented league mostly made up of catholic universities.

Obviously, the culprit here is football and the efforts of all the conferences to keep inflating their share of the pie. By adding San Diego State, Boise State and Navy as football only members, the Big East will have 12 schools that play football and be able to have the coveted “Conference Championship”.  The basketball side will be a ridiculous 16-team conference.  More absurdly, when the football teams are split into divisions, one will be named “Western”.  Clearly, a new name is needed for this conference.

But more importantly, is anyone thinking about the students in all of this? We are about a month away from March Madness and being bombarded with those messages about how the NCAA cares about the “student” part in student-athlete, but that claim seems increasingly laughable.  Taylor Branch wrote an excellent piece in the Atlantic on the NCAA and its nefarious ways and Joe Nocera has written several good pieces in the Times about them. I know we all wink when we talk about these kids going to classes, but setups like the Big East’s show just how big a sham this is.

Think about a Big East basketball player in a few years playing for Houston.  Their closest road trip will be a four-hour drive/1-hour plane ride to Dallas.  But, they will also have trips to Memphis, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and plenty of other cities in between.  Now some of these games will be on weekends, but the Big East routinely plays plenty of games on weeknights.  For example, last night Providence traveled to Villanova and tonight there are three games including Notre Dame traveling to West Virginia.  As the trips get longer it seems pretty likely that more class days will be missed yet the NCAA keeps allowing these conferences to grow bigger and bigger and more and more geographically diverse.

The brutal truth is that 99% of these players are not going to make it to a professional league.  They are going to need the education they were supposed to get in college to make it in the world.  Shouldn’t the NCAA make it easier for them to learn?

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  • blmeanie  On February 8, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    should, yes. Money makers don’t have to go to class. I listened in the car today as two college football talk hosts discussed the big east at length. Something like 15 of the 17 schools currently come from top 25 or 30 tv markets. There was a temptation to add East Carolina evidently but that market isn’t big enough.

  • nysportsfanatic  On February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    The TV markets point is interesting. They have #1, #3, #4, #5, #9 and #10. I also heard they rejected Temple and chose Memphis, probably because they already have the Philly market with Villanova.

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